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Minimal Effort – Maximum Effect: the set design for the show „Zur Sache Extra – Nationalpark Schwarzwald“ on SWR

Recording in a TV studio is a challenge in itself. Everything must run smoothly – for the perfect performance, for the perfect broadcast. However, image and sound aren’t the only things that have to shift with in seconds and correspond as well. What’s important above all is the aura of the set.

The studio must come alive, flow, radiate. The scene of action should be interesting, modern and richly illuminated. However, it should not by any means distract from the host or the guest and, ideally, it should be quick and uncomplicated to set up. And this is exactly where the challenge lies. Thanks to an LED horizon equipped with LED products from Schnick-Schnack-Systems, the SWR broadcaster was able to tackle this challenge with ease, as can be seen on the show „Zur Sache Extra – Nationalpark Schwarzwald“.

TV studios are often used for different productions within a short period of time. This requires a flexible lighting system that can, on one hand “shed light” quickly on other scenes but at the same time do justice to other demands. Entire moods must often be called up quickly and automatically, and must be changeable as well. Another aspect is that different cameras are shooting from different angles and distances. Especially when it comes to close-ups. At the same time, the scenery must create a relaxed studio atmosphere but not distract the audience.

So, to create this ‘perfect’ studio situation in several studios, Stuttgart based SWR installed a cyclorama with video controlled LED elements. The roughly pixilated LED Modules from Schnick-Schnack-Systems are the perfect choice for this use because in addition to the video controllability, they are also camera-friendly. A diffuser foil put in front of the LED modules softens the image, giving the video-fed content and the resolution of each pixel a pleasant smoothness that produces a homogenous field of light.

But that alone is not what makes a good studio set design. A visually convincing result can only come about through the interaction of the horizon with the set decoration and projection of suitable content. Perfect content doesn’t always need elaborate preparation and a large team. Often, you just need someone who knows how to work with low resolution – as is the case with Zur Sache on SWR. It is a perfect example of how simple methods can create a set design that establishes an unpretentious atmosphere, loosens up the mood without distracting the viewer and thereby supports the minimalistic scenery. The content-controlled interaction between the modest set decoration and the LED horizon results in a harmonious, overall appearance that visually supports the host as well as the interview situation and therefore perfect for use in a TV studio. The graphic background is actually created during the lighting of the studio with minimal time expenditure and without a large team of graphic designers.

Three different layers are set up to create the content – clouds at the top, the middle layer with trees and the bottom part of the horizon. Some of the parts, like the clouds, are animated, other parts, like the trees and the field are still and heavily stylized. This was necessary in order to ensure the right background for the different camera angles during the production. The entire scene comes to fruition in a long shot of the studio. The whole image appears self-contained, all of the elements are easily recognizable and the animation loosens up the composition. When the camera angle comes from the side, only a part of the set can be seen. But the background still appears self-contained even though the camera is capturing only a section of it. During close-ups of studio guests or the host, the heavily stylized elements with the trees and the grass look like lightly shaded green surfaces. This helps to guarantee that the viewer’s attention won’t shift to the background. What’s more, this also achieves a classic portrait impression.

All in all a very successful set design, that meets all the requirements of a modern set and though understated still stands out as an impressive design.

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Nicole Böttcher

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Nicole Böttcher